Plymouth is due to submit its business plan for the city’s freeport with tax break in November with a stakeholder event scheduled to take place earlier this month.
The city was named beneficiary of one of the country’s eight new free ports by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his March 2021 budget. This meant Plymouth is set to benefit from a £ 100million investment and employment boom, with around 1,000 jobs created in the first two years.
Plymouth has been named a freeport alongside East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe and Harwich, Humber area, Liverpool City area, Solent, Thames and Teesside, but its case must be approved by ministers.
Learn more about the Plymouth Freeport
Plymouth City Council is in the process of producing a business case for what is called the Plymouth and South Devon Free Zone. It hosted a stakeholder event in June and is currently hosting a second stakeholder meeting and aims to have its master plan in Whitehall by the end of November.
A council statement said: “The business case for the Plymouth and South Devon Free Zone will be submitted in November.
“Updates were made to members elected through cabinets in September and the dossier now continues to be developed, in collaboration with the government and partners. Prior to submission in November, a formal update will be made to elected members.
The board said a shadow board and delivery team were making “good progress in articulating our innovative Freeport offering and its benefits to the city and region, target markets and strategic rationale across the board. OBC (Outline Business Case) “.
The board added: “We will provide further updates in the coming weeks and are currently planning a second stakeholder event to be held in early November, details of which will be available in due course.”
In collaboration with Devon County Council and South Hams District Council, the local authority should ensure that the business case submitted to government reflects the ideas and priorities of stakeholders as well as the needs and requirements of the government. opportunities in the region.
A “snapshot” document prepared by the council said the free zone “will harness the power of Plymouth’s maritime economy” and “unlock underutilized employment lands in Sherford and Langage”.
He said the free zone “would provide an immediate injection of at least £ 20million” with the cash collected in the region from the additional trade rates the free zone would generate. He insisted that there would be no diversion of funding from the council to other priorities.
The document says there had already been “a high level of interest” from high-tech manufacturing companies looking to find a base in the UK.
If all goes according to plan, the free zone could be operational by summer 2022 and could include sites in Devonport’s South Yard, including the Oceansgate Marine Engineering Center, the Langage Energy Zone and the Sherford business as yet unbuilt next to the A38.
This would create a space for companies to import goods and materials, add value to them through manufacturing and export, and leverage the city’s marine innovation strengths to attract technology companies from the maritime sector. .
A document the council produced for businesses said the free zone could provide simpler planning procedures, infrastructure funding and lower taxes, including full stamp duty relief on the purchase of land. in the free zone, relief in commercial tariffs for new businesses and some existing ones if they expand, and relief in national insurance contributions for eligible new employees.
There could also be tariff advantages and broader government support, and tariff advantages such as the deferral of duties and even lower duties if the finished products leaving the free zone are subject to lower duties than those of their components. .
There could even be a total exemption from customs duties for goods that are processed into a finished product within the free zone and then exported.
But in June, MPs criticized the government for failing to publish a report on the economic impact of free ports. And they feared that plans to crack down on global tax evasion, agreed upon at the recent G7 summit in Cornwall, would in fact mean that businesses inside free ports would not get any benefits.
The House of Commons International Trade Committee said the government’s decision to simply publish the “costs” of the freeport program did not go far enough.
Meanwhile, businesses in the Southwest said in an investigation they were unclear about how the free zone worked and expressed concerns about where the skilled workers came from.
Business Live’s Southwestern business reporter is William Telford. William has over a decade of experience reporting on the business scene in Plymouth and the South West. It is based in Plymouth but covers the entire region.
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Transatlantic law firm Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD), which has a large office in Plymouth, produced its Freeports Business Sentiment 2021 report, representing the views of over 500 companies across the UK, in a range sectors and turnover.
The report, which included contributions from the Plymouth Manufacturers’ Group and City College Plymouth, showed that 50% of respondents in the South West agreed that Freeports would have a positive impact on their business, and 52% also believed that free ports would help improve trade to and from the UK. . But only 18% of respondents in the region felt they had a clear understanding of how free ports work and how governance will work in practice.